In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(51) by Lorraine Heath
She was suddenly aware of the tears washing down her cheeks.
“Catherine?” Claybourne was no longer lounging. He was coming up out of his chair.
“Oh, forgive me. That—that was not polite at all. Please excuse me, I need a moment.”
She rose and walked out of the room.
Luke watched her leave. He’d been insolent and rude. He was upset with Frannie for not trying harder. He was angry with Catherine for having the habit of touching the tip of her tongue to her top lip—just a quick touch, barely noticeable, but he noticed—after each sip of wine as though she needed to gather the last drop. He was angry at Bill for smiling at Catherine, for pretending to have an interest in the amount of rain that was falling on London this summer. He was furious with himself because he wanted to gather that wine from Catherine’s lips with his own. He was furious because he was intrigued with Catherine, because he was noticing so many things about her—the way the light captured her hair, revealing that it wasn’t all the same shade of blond. Some strands were paler than others. He told himself that his interest in Catherine was only because he didn’t know her well, while he knew everything about Frannie. They’d grown up together. There was little for them to learn about each other. But Catherine was another matter entirely.
He looked at Bill and Frannie. “I should check on her.”
“Of course, you should,” Frannie said, “more than a moment ago as a matter of fact.”
He strode from the room and looked in the parlor. She wasn’t there. Dread tightened his stomach. What if she’d left? What if she was out walking the streets? What if she’d put herself in harm’s way?
Walking into the library, he found her standing by the window, looking onto the garden as she’d been that first night in his home. Only this time she didn’t jerk around in surprise by his presence. When she faced him, he saw the fury and disappointment in her eyes. She didn’t give him time to say a word before she continued her tirade.
“You say you are willing to do whatever necessary to have Frannie as your wife, but I do not see you doing everything required. I see you doing only what it pleases you to do and calling it sufficient to gain what you want. Whereas I must—”
He’d covered her mouth with a blistering kiss before he’d thought it through. He could tell himself that he was bored with the dinner, bored with the conversation, but the reality was that it was driving him mad to watch her sip wine, to gaze at her slender throat and shoulders, to see her smiling at Bill when Luke wanted her to smile at him.
As he swept his tongue through her mouth, he knew it was wrong, but he wanted her, wanted her in a way he’d never desired Frannie. He wanted Catherine rough, he wanted her tenderly. He never thought of taking Frannie to his bed. He thought of marrying her, he thought of having her as his wife, but carnal images of them together never filled his mind. With Catherine, he saw a kaleidoscope of their contorted naked bodies.
Tonight he could feel the need rising in him, felt it rising in her as she rose up on her toes and wound her arms around his neck, her fingers scraping into his hair. Her teeth grazed his bottom lip, tugged—
He groaned, considered the location of the nearest settee—
Shoving him, she scrambled back into the shadows of the draperies. “My God,” she rasped. “Your betrothed is down the hallway—”
“She’s not my betrothed yet, and I have doubts that she’ll ever be. Do you think if I asked her tonight that she’d say yes? Have you convinced her that she can handle being a countess? She doesn’t even want to be the hostess over a bloody dinner!”
He swung away from her, didn’t want to see that he’d frightened her. Frightened Catherine who’d faced a ruffian with a knife.
He plowed his fingers through his hair. “My apologies. My behavior was abhorrent. I don’t know what got into me. It won’t happen again.”
He heard a hesitant footstep, then another. Feeling the touch of a hand on his shoulder, he stiffened. He wanted to spin around and take her in his arms again.
“Frannie told me you’ve never kissed her.”
“I don’t think of her that way.”
“You don’t think about kissing her?”
“She’s not a carnal creature.”
He moved away from her, before he proved her point. “Yes, well, I’m quite capable of restraining myself when the situation warrants.”
“And I don’t warrant restraint?”
He faced her. “I want to marry Frannie, but I think of you day and night. I’m sitting at that bloody dinner table wondering about the taste of you with wine upon your tongue.
And when you vent your fury at me all you do is make me want you more. But it is only lust, Catherine. It is only the physical. I am with you every night. It stands to reason that my body would react to your nearness. It has grown accustomed to it.”
It didn’t help matters at all that the scent of her lingered in his bed.
“Do you ever do anything with Frannie?” she asked.
The change in subject seemed abrupt, strange, but he was grateful to turn attention away from his acting badly. “What do you mean?”
“Do you ever take her to the theater or the park or boating? Do you know her outside of Dodger’s?”
“Well, yes, of course.”
“What’s something you’ve done together?”
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